Apr 4, 2018

The Gay Weird Tales of H.P. Lovecraft

When I was in high school in the 1970s, a series of paperbacks appeared at Readmore Book World with weird, evocative titles: The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath; The Doom that Came to Sarnath; At the Mountains of Madness.

They weren't actually heroic fantasy, they were "weird tales," dark fantasies by H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937) originally published in the 1920s and 1930s, mostly about slithering, tentacled things that lurk just beneath the surface of idyllic small towns.

Such as Azazoth, "who gnaws hungrily in inconceivable, unlighted chambers beyond time and space amidst the muffled, maddening beating of vile drums and the thin monotonous whine of accursed flutes."

That's the way he wrote.

And "unspeakable knowledge" uncovered in long-forgotten grimoires: De Vermis Mysteriis, the Book of Eibon, Unaussprechlichen Kulten.... and, of course, the Necronomicon, written by the "mad Arab Abdul Alhazred."

I loved that sort of thing.  Especially because there was:

No heterosexual romance anywhere.
Lots of descriptions of masculine beauty.
Lots of male bonding.
Lots of muscular men discovering the horror behind the  heteronormative job-wife-house trajectory.

In "Beyond the Wall of Sleep" (1919), the narrator hears a disembodied voice speaking from a sleeping man: "I am your brother of light, and have floated with you in the effulgent valleys.  You have been my friend in the cosmos  We shall meet again -- perhaps in the shining mists of Orion's Sword, perhaps in some other form an aeon hence, when the solar system shall have been swept away."

Talk about soul mates!

In “The Quest of Iranon”(1921), a man wanders a stern, unfriendly world in search of the city of Aira, where there are “men to whom songs and dreams. . .bring pleasure.”  He meets “a young boy with sad eyes” who also dreams of escape.    They travel together, happy in a way yet always longing.  They grow old together and finally die, never finding their true home.

Might I suggest West Hollywood?

Randolph Carter, Lovecraft's most famous hero, has been played on screen by Mark Kinsey Stephenson, Art Kitching, Toren Atkinson, Adam Fozard, and Conor Timmis.

In real life, Lovecraft was rather a jerk.  He was even more racist than most in his era, loudly criticizing the "decadent, half-ape" immigrants who were "overrunning" New England.  He particularly disliked Jews, although he married a Jewish woman (his frequent anti-Semitic ranting was the cause of their breakup).

And he was even more homophobic than most, loudly criticizing gay people as "effeminate" and a danger to civilization.  Yet he had many gay friends, such as Hart Crane (author of The Bridge), Samuel Loveman (author of Hermaphrodite and Other Poems), and Robert Hayward Barlow (who became executor of his estate).

In fact, one might say that he found his strongest emotional bonds among gay men.


  1. And now I know where white people for the idea that we can call down lightning.

    By the way, his friend Robert E Howard wrote Conan. Actually, they're in the same universe. (As is blatantly obvious in "At the Mountains of Madness", which has shout outs to Conan and Kull.) While Howard's Conan dresses more sensibly, donning a loincloth in Zamora (which corresponds to India) and Kush (which corresponds to, ahem, Kush) while wearing heavier clothes in more polar regions, Frazetta basically put him in a loincloth and boots everywhere, creating the stereotypical barbarian look that straight boys thought was badass and gay boys wanted to sleep with.

    Howard was also "a man of his time" as we euphemize it.

    1. Call down lightning. As in the supernatural ability to make electricity run from clouds to the ground.

      You'd be surprised how many artists have plagiarized the February 1924 cover of Weird Tales.


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